Good things are on the menu for restaurants this year

After a tough few years for the industry, restaurants might finally be catching a break.

It’s been a hard four years for the restaurant industry.

A restaurant dining room with four picture frames of smiley faces over four dining tables.

When the pandemic hit, restaurants were some of the most impacted businesses. In the US, an estimated 72.7k closed due to covid.

But now, there are signs of regrowth: Yelp listings show that ~53.8k new restaurants opened last year, representing 16.1 new restaurants for every 100k people, per Axios.

Some types of restaurants in particular have been taking off:

  • Desserts (up 66% YoY)
  • Pop-ups (up 66%)
  • Creperies (up 63%)
  • Hot pot (up 53%)

Certain cuisines have also experienced upswings, like African and Peruvian restaurants, which are up 65% and 28%, respectively, compared to 2019.

What’s for dinner?

The restaurants themselves aren’t the only things changing — menu offerings are getting revamped as shops compete in a cutthroat market.

And there are some noticeable trends emerging on today’s menus, per The New York Times:

  • Certain classics reign supreme — like Caesar salads and fried chicken — with some unexpected new items taking off, like caviar, yuzu, and panna cotta.
  • Desserts are becoming more drinkable (hello, espresso martini) and nostalgic.
  • Alcohol-free beverages are still on the rise, with more menus dedicating entire sections to zero-proof drinks.

Plus, menus are increasingly colorful and modern, and include more content highlighting restaurant labor, like info on ingredient sourcing or explanations of service fees.

The restaurant renaissance…

… is not without its hardships. In a 2023 poll by Washington, D.C.’s restaurant association, 75% of establishments reported being less profitable than pre-pandemic.

Then, of course, there are the rising costs of labor and ingredients, with the added hurdle of budget-conscious customers dining out less.

Ending with a bit of good news: You’re not just getting older and going blind — smaller font sizes are actually in vogue, with some restaurants dipping down to 5 points.

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Topics: Restaurants

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